Blog Posts

Google Pixel 2: Reviews round-up

Dieter Bohn for The Verge:

Without fail, every person who has picked up the Pixel 2 XL has said virtually the same thing: “It feels like it’s made out of plastic.” I said it myself when I first held it. Of course, neither the Pixel 2 nor the Pixel 2 XL are made out of plastic. They’re made out of Gorilla Glass and aluminum, just like every other high-end phone these days.

But Google coated all that aluminum with a textured finish that hides most of the antenna lines and also makes the phones easier to grip. Google took what could have been a visually impressive design and covered it up in the name of ergonomics. It literally made a metal phone feel like a plastic one. It chose function over form.

The Pixel 2 has many, many things going for it. Were it not for a few problems — the screen, the slightly inelegant design, and (yes) the lack of a headphone jack — it might have received the highest score we’ve ever given a phone. As it is, it’s a great phone, but not quite a home run.

At nearly every turn, with both the hardware and the software, Google made that design decision again and again [choosing function over form]. There have been a few times when I wish the company had risked a little more razzamatazz, but mostly I’ve been appreciating the focus on improving the basics.

Chris Velazco for Engadget, on the camera quality:

I find it difficult to make sweeping statements like “This is the best phone out there, period,” because such generalizations are prone to be wrong for a lot of people. That said, I can safely say the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are the best Android phones I’ve used all year (and I’ve used a lot of them). While I don’t agree with all of Google’s choices, something special is bound to happen when a company as smart as Google takes such strict control over how its vision of smartphones should be realized.

Ron Amadeo for Ars Technica:

Every single animation goes off without a hitch. Scrolling is flawless. There are additional, exclusive animations on the home screen like bounce scrolling and folder opening that add to the buttery smooth feel. It’s amazing—head and shoulders above every other Android phone out there.

With the Pixel, you get an iPhone-like update experience, a cohesive software package, and super fast UI performance. It offers a harmonious device with a single, cohesive design language and none of the junk that slows your phone down. In 2017, that’s enough to merit the title of “Best Android phone.”

David Pierce, for Wired:

Last year, I called the original Pixel the best phone on the planet. I’m hesitant to do so again, only because the iPhone X comes out in two weeks. (I’ll update this review when that happens.) Here’s what I can say for sure, right here and right now: There’s no better Android phone, anywhere, than the Pixel 2. Especially that black and white Pixel 2 XL. I mean, have you seen that thing? Come on.

My takeaway:

1) The Pixel 2 XL screen made by LG is sub-par compared to the Pixel 2 screen made by Samsung. The issues people are complain about include subdued colours (which I prefer), off-axis colour imbalances (which is not such a big deal since you view the phone head-on) and reported issues of burn-in (which is a huge problem), the latter of which is being reportedly fixed in a software update.

2) Experience-wise, best Android phone, hands-down.

3) I wondered how they managed to remove the antenna bands. Turns out they didn’t, it’s simply hidden by a soft-touch layer. And I worry it behaves like most soft-touch layers i.e. starts to peel off after a couple of years (unless you use a cover).

4) Despite Google’s claim to the contrary, the two Pixels are not identical. One has a better ratio of screen estate and battery life, while the other has a better screen. Worse yet, there’s no clear winner.

5) The industrial design has started to grow on me. I do think Google is not there to create the most ‘elegant’ design but more akin to refined playfulness. Plus, there’s much more to look forward to for next year after they acqui-hired a sizeable chunk of HTC.

Weekly Vision: October 29, 2017

The Weekly Vision is a collection of stories that are worth consuming as whole, or just not worth the time editing. You’ll find out either way.

1) Wirecutter Review: The best paper towel for mopping up tears

2) “I Quit Showering, and Life Continued”: We spend two full years of our lives washing ourselves. How much of that time (and money and water) is a waste?

3) Inexplicable tech: This ramen fork will play noises to cover up your gross slurping

4) Al-Jawad Pike combines brick, concrete and timber for restrained London home extension

5) Ten lessons from a maker

Weekly Vision: October 22, 2017

The Weekly Vision is a collection of stories that are worth consuming as whole, or just not worth the time editing. You’ll find out either way.

1) Dictionary Stories, a book of short stories composed entirely of dictionary example sentences

2) A project that explores how the full moon is photographed through different mediums and shared (on Flickr in this case)

3) Amazon’s new Kindle Oasis is waterproof and has a bigger screen

4) How much the inside of an iPhone has changed in ten years

5) Eric Clapton performs ‘Wonderful Tonight’ live. Brilliant riff (as expected) with a vocal solo at the end (not expected).

The Steve Jobs Theatre, in pictures

Even though Apple had a press event at this venue this September, it was hard to gauge the look and feel of the lobby and demo area —Recode did offer a photographic tour — due to the crowd and everyone vying to get their shots in.

Not to say that the entrance lobby space would be compromised with internal columns but it does look unbelievable to have a roof so large be supported by only the peripheral glazing members. The trick: Carbon fibre, a smart structural bracing, and pure technological progress.

Bonus: It isn’t be too evident in the pictures, but the white pads below the Apple Watches follow the curve of the table, which follow the curve of the demo room, which follow the curve of the entire theatre. Chalk that up to “immaculate attention to detail” or “plain old OCD”, as you like.

(Via Reddit)

Twitter: A pretty hate machine

Mike Monteiro, on Twitter’s evolution from a first person’s account:

Twitter was built at the tail end of that era. Their goal was giving everyone a voice. They were so obsessed with giving everyone a voice that they never stopped to wonder what would happen when everyone got one. And they never asked themselves what everyone meant. That’s Twitter’s original sin. Like Oppenheimer, Twitter was so obsessed with splitting the atom they never stopped to think what we’d do with it.

Twitter, which was conceived and built by a room of privileged white boys (some of them my friends!), never considered the possibility that they were building a bomb. To this day, Jack Dorsey doesn’t realize the size of the bomb he’s sitting on. Or if he does, he believes it’s metaphorical. It’s not. He is utterly unprepared for the burden he’s found himself responsible for.

This one is worth reading in full (apart from the dickbars Medium keeps trying to force on people reading without the app installed)

(Via Jason Kottke)

Your daily distraction: The cutest little hedgehog goes camping, in pictures

Stella, writing for Bored Panda:

We know you remember Azuki, the tiny Japanese hedgehog who goes on big adventures. His perky ears, button nose, and delightful roundness is just impossible to forget. Well, Azuki recently traded his cozy dream house in for a set of miniature Coleman camping gear and took a trip to the great outdoors. Equipped with his own tent, kayak, and barbecue, he was all set for success, and pretty much had the time of his life. Just looking at his photos makes us want to get our camp on. It also really, really makes us want a hedgehog. Like, right this second.

Take a ride on the wild side and see the best moments from Azuki’s camping days below, and don’t even try to tell us you’ve ever been as happy as this magnificent little guy.

Casper Mattresses: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Jason Kottke:

For Fast Company, David Zax wrote about the Casper mattress company suing mattress-reviewing bloggers over their affiliate marketing relationships.

As Casper flourished through 2014 and early 2015, I learned, it enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with Sleepopolis and similar sites. For many bloggers, in fact, Casper was among the first mattress companies to offer affiliate commissions, leading its competitors to respond in turn. The reviews sites were key parts of what marketers call the “purchase funnel,” converting a vague interest in mattresses into awareness of a specific brand, and often the decision to buy it. Many consumers were Googling terms like “best mattress,” landing on sites like Sleepopolis, and learning about e-tailers like Casper for the first time.

Indeed, one would never have predicted looming lawsuits from a friendly 2015 email exchange, in which Casper CEO Philip Krim attempted to court an affiliate marketer named Jack Mitcham, who ran a Sleepopolis-like site called Mattress Nerd.

In January 2015, Krim wrote Mitcham that while he supported objective reviews, “it pains us to see you (or anyone) recommend a competitor over us.”

Krim went on: “As you know, we are much bigger than our newly formed competitors. I am confident we can offer you a much bigger commercial relationship because of that. How would you ideally want to structure the affiliate relationship? And also, what can we do to help to grow your business?”

I was just thinking the other day about how these companies like Casper formed to undercut the price gouging mattress stores and now, with millions of VC dollars behind them, they’re pulling their own brand of underhanded tricks to manipulate people into buying their products. In five years, Casper will probably have dozens of retail stores and 10 different kinds of mattress at different price points — they already have more than a dozen stores and 3 models ranging from $600 to $1850 — just like the companies they are trying to replace. Their origin story won’t matter…VC-fueled marketing will paper over all of that and, tada, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Elevator etiquette in Japan: If you are the first to enter, you are the new elevator captain

Alastair Tse:

In Japan, there is an unspoken elevator etiquette for riding elevators. Here is what I have learnt so far in four weeks.

Rules

1. If you are the first to enter an empty elevator, you are the new elevator captain.

2. As the elevator captain, stand close to the control panel and hold the door open button until everyone safely boards the vehicle.

3. Once the last person boards, let go of the open button and press the close button immediately. Hold until door is closed. You must abort the procedure if anyone decides to sneak in.

4. As the captain, you must now hold the door open for each floor the elevator stops. And use video game dexterity to immediately hold close when the last person exits.

5. If this is your floor, you must be the last to abandon ship, hold door open until everyone exits. Then you may exit.

6. The closest person to the control panel must now become the new elevator captain. The new captain must hold the open button until the previous captain exits.

A man is shot dead in Delhi after objecting to his friends smoking

The Indian Express, reporting:

Three men have been arrested for allegedly shooting dead a 22-year-old man, after he objected to them smoking inside his house in Sukhdev Nagar earlier this month. The three men, identified as Bhola, Vijay and Arjun, were arrested on Sunday, police said. The men and the victim, Brijesh Kumar, were friends, added police.

A day after the incident, Kumar went missing. “One of our police teams found a body in a canal near Rohini Sector 16. It was later identified as that of Kumar and sent for post-mortem.”

The family informed police about the fight. “We suspected the involvement of his friends. A police team was formed and we managed to track them down,” an officer said.

During questioning, the men confessed to their involvement. They told police that Kumar got into an argument with Bhola over smoking inside his house and slapped him. Bhola wanted to get back at him. “The next day, Bhola invited them for a party. Then, the four went on a drive. An argument broke out between them and Bhola shot Kumar in the head. Later, they dumped the body in the canal,” the DCP said.

Nomos launches a new line of minimal (with a dash of play) automatic watches

If you’re fond of mechanical watches and not aware of Nomos, well, that’s not possible. But if you are fond of watches and don’t keep close tabs on the world of watchmaking beyond quartz, you really should keep tabs on this brand.

Cutting away from the norm and producing most of their parts in-house, including a very impressive automatic movement [what makes the watch tick], Nomos has been creating waves for their technical prowess, minimal and playful design language, and affordable price tag (in the world of mechanical timepieces; gloss over this point if you consider high-end branded quartz watches as your upper limit). For example, the series averages around $4,000 for a steel-cased watch while the special rose gold Metro watch costs around $9,700. Yes, these are still considered good value to just be in the under $5,000 category

Today they introduced their “At Work” series, which is probably just a branding term for a series which continue where their 35 mm automatic watches left off [this one is 39 mm]. If you observe their former, including the initial hand-wound watches, you’ll notice the subtle refinement in proportions, colours and nomenclature.

Not surprisingly, it’s easy to say which is my favourite — the gallery reeks of the prejudice — the rose gold Metro.

You can find their new collection on their website, but you should really just peruse the entire collection.

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